Thursday, December 29, 2005

Getting the Business from BIG corporations

I think it may be time to start a list. I love lists, they remind me of things I have to do, of things I need from the store, whose birthday is in a particular month, AND they also remind me of things I sometimes forget about in the face of convenience, like which corporations I believe are scamming customers.
Since I've already had a personal rant about Walgreen, who I still think has no business deciding whose prescriptions they can or won't fill, I think they will be at the top of my list. The truth is though that I have moved to another state and I don't know if Walgreen has rethought their corporate policy which allows pharmacists to decline filling birth control pill prescriptions based on the pharmacists religious beliefs. I probably should look into that - but I've been busy - probably trying to find agreeable businesses to purchase things at - like other pharmacies to use. Actually, if I thought Wisconsin was bad with the religious zeal, I obviously did not know what was in store for me by moving to Indiana. If one more person blesses me, I will give them a reason to do so, like sneeze in their face or something similarly distasteful. I never accept anything from people who I don't respect.
On to my newest bitch - Barnes and Nobel Bookstores.
I love books. I admit to using the hated Amazon dot com and the big box book stores. Hey, they have long ago put mom and pop bookstores out of business so there is little choice anymore for browsing bookshelves. Really I don't shop at big box bookstores all that much since it is close to impossible to find anything other than "Popular Fiction" or the hottest non-fiction titles, you know the self help crap books whose covers promise a better job, a sexier core, tastier dinners or a tempestuous sex life. Most of what I want to read isn't carried by B&N or Borders or any of the big chain booksellers. This week, while out of town, I found myself with a few minutes of spare time, an urge for a chai latte and my laptop. I headed for
Barnes & Nobel where I knew all of my instant gratification urges could be fulfilled.
Chai in hand, I headed for the tables where Barnes and Nobels advertising proudly announces, I was promised instant WiFi access. Certainly, B&N provides instant WiFi for those who are equipped to use it, but they do so at a price. I did not know this. Nor did any of the other people who sat at the other tables around me. At least they did not know they would have to pay for online WiFi use when they came to B&N with visions of internet in their heads. No, this is not a joke - when you try to log onto the internet at a B&N you will be directed to a site that is their provider. It happens to be a spin off of SBC. This site informs you that you must open an account with the provider, or enter a "Use Card" number in order to surf. I tried to use my Mac to circumnavigate this problem and to no avail. Even as a user of SBC Global I could not access this B&N, SBC powered provider.
So folks, if you think B&N is a free lunch, or at least a cheap date - buy a coffee and it's for real - get over it because it isn't.
In fact, I'll bet that if I had consented to paying for internet time, B&N would be sending me boat loads of spam and trying to get me to become a member of their frequent buyer discount program. Oh, you didn't know about that? Yes, for a fee of $25.00, Barnes and Nobel will sell you discounts on book purchases.
So where should I go now when I feel the need to hold paper books in my hand? The library? At least I know what's in store for me there - Homeland Security checking out my leisure reading.
It's a fucking crazy world and I am not happy with it.
Goodbye Barnes and Nobel! Goodbye Walgreen!
Whose next in line for the corporate shit list?????
Probably Starbucks. But everyone already knows they charge to use their WiFi too. It's not enough that we pay way too much money for their shitty coffee, but we'll pay for something that floats around in the air too.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Ties which bind us

This past Sunday, during some rare 'down time' I watched a program on PBS 'Nature' series about the rescue volunteers who assisted with saving the pets of evacuees in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina. To say I was moved would be an understatement; I would be happy to report that I must be much less hormonal these days as I did not weep. Which is not to say that this program wasn't heart wrenching. We've all heard about the work being done independently by veterinarians and humane societies in NOLA. But to actually understand why the animal tragedy occurred and then to see how some very dedicated and passionately moved people responded was enough for a relief weary human to dig deep into the wallet and send cash to help.
Since our recent move to another state, my spouse and I have found that we are without the network which we had built over 15 years in our last state of residency. When it came time for the long awaited (and desperately needed) November vacation,
we found ourselves canceling due to the lack of a parrot sitter. Since we love our parrot, even in his extreme bad moods, we could not with clear conscious subject him to some of the paranoia currently sweeping the USA about Avian Flu. And if that were not enough, there are numerous other disease and transportation issues surrounding companion birds that we found too risky to chance.
Given this circumstance, to learn that the people of New Orleans who were under evacuation orders were told they could not take their pets with them has again made me feel lucky that I live with choices about how to deal with lack of boarding opportunities.
My father and his wife, who live in Punta Gorda Florida lived through hurricane Charley in August 2004. The towns of Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda were close to being wiped off the map from the fury of Charley. But even under evacuation orders, many residents chose to stay in their homes rather than to trust that their pets would be OK. Some of those same people lost their lives while trying to save their pets.
Animals are funny creatures. We know that animals have ways of knowing when 'bad weather' is approaching. Yet, I will admit, I am not sure I would want to be locked up in a shelter with numerous frightened and smelly animals. But then, I would resent that anyone would doubt that my parrot is as much a member of this family as say, Grandma or grandpa is to yours.
When our governments, local and national, reject the need of humans for their companion animals, they also make a statement about what is important to a good life. Even though I wouldn't want to share shelter space with pitbulls, I now understand that the value of companion animals can not be measured in fur, fins or feathers.

The 'Nature' Program also talked about the effects of Katrina on the New Orleans Zoo, which luckily was spared the brunt of Katrina's damage. But the animals in their wisdom began to have behavior issues shortly after the storm. The zookeepers invited some of the National Guard members who were on post to do zoo walk throughs and immediately the animals began to show signs of returning to normal. The daily give and take of animals at the zoo and the people who visit them was restored and when that happened the animals normalcy was also restored.

During two of my visits to NOLA, I have visited the Aquarium of the Americas. The Aquarium is quite a special place. The number of animals and the exhibits there were not to be found any place else in the USA. The jellyfish exhibits were possibly the best in the world. During and after Katrina, the staff at the aquarium were also evacuated because the National Guard could not guarantee their safety. When the staff were allowed to return, they found utter devastation of life. The power could not be maintained so the animals in salt water tanks died due to extreme heat, lack of food and water filtration/aeration. The few creatures that did survive, the penguins, parrots and otters were emergency airlifted to other zoos in the USA. Were it not for the dedication, passion and empathy of a few individuals, it is certain that none of the animals would have survived. In particular a NOLA cop who was assigned to duty at the aquarium managed to be most instrumental in saving the penguins. The cop's name is John and if John should ever read this, I would want him to know that his actions will remain with me for the rest of my life.

After months of watching the sadness and feeling the loss of what was NOLA, I have pretty much been tapped out for donations. But if anyone who reads this and cares about animals can still do so, please pick an organization that is instrumental in helping either the Zoo, the Aquarium or the Humane Society to send money to. These are the unsung hero's of the animals of NOLA. And too, these same people are often the ones who lost their homes, have had their families scattered and will probably not be sharing Thanksgiving dinner with the same cozy warmth as the rest of us will.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Trade in that Dirty Mind for an Open Mind - Part 2

Recently this year, the PBS children program "Postcards from Buster"” featured a visit with two families which were producers of Maple Syrup. The families in question were non-traditional families. Not having seen the program, and at the time of this article, not having received a reply from my inquiries to PBS, I can only paraphrase the situation as I have heard it. In reality, the familys’ that were featured were gay, One household consisted of two men with their children. The second family consisted of two women and their children. During the program, the word "“gay"” or "“homosexual"” or "“lesbian" was never mentioned. Nor was mention made of the arrangements between any of the people involved. The families were presenting their jobs: making maple syrup and taking care of their maple trees.
Margaret Spellings, Bush administration Secretary of Education, requested that this program be axed from the PBS lineup as it presented views contrary with the Bush administration policies. Since our federal government is still contributing funds to PBS through tax payer funding, the censorship agenda is still followed. The Bush administration’s view was such that PBS, in presenting such family arrangements, was instilling in children the belief that homosexuality in any form was acceptable and normal, and therefore, the program should not be shown or aired as childrens programming.

While most would deny it, many people have dirty minds. Their imaginations conjure imagaes which are salubrious in nature. While asking that ‘dirty minds be kept in check is simply another form of censorship, one must wonder if people don'’t have enough to keep their minds occupied by something other than sexual innuendo.
When I hear about a couple who has been married for 60 years, I certainly don'’t entertain notions of their sex lives. And when hearing that there are 30 plus members of a mixed gender commune living in Colorado, I don'’t waste my time thinking about who has sex with whom.
It is a limiting way of life to imagine what one can not know. Or to impose upon others an individual's own morals.
How can we evolve our species and human necessities when our very steps are dogged by small minded - and dirty minded questions?
What do neo-conservatives make of the new ‘communes’ of senior citizen Florida, in which retired middle income women will contract the purchase of a home for shared living? Will the Neo-cons call them lesbians and condemn their choices? And what of young people who struggle for years to pay off college loans and need the shelter of shared living arrangements to afford to live on their own?

As a society we need to become more accepting of others and not live to question the choices of those who walk in ‘other shoes’. We need to realize that while we might live in a traditional family unit, there may be a point in time where this can change and we too might have to move in with someone who is neither lover, blood relative or same gender.

For more on PBS Progarm, “Postcards from Buster”, program #39, and an interview with Margaret Spellings, visit:

Trade in that "Dirty Mind" for a more Open Mind

When I was in my thirties, a series of unfortunate events led me to the conclusion that financially, it was near to impossible for me to continue to live alone in a rented apartment. It was time to find a room mate.
While attending university, I lived in a room mate environment; I rented a room at a less than full fraternity house on campus. As a single female, I found this to be a very interesting arrangement, a house full of single men and I the only woman. It did not take long for me to realize that yes, men tend to live like bears in caves, and the shortsighted female can on occasion ignore this fact. But in my thirties, a frat house was not an option. I surveyed my personal landscape for likely room mates.
Eventually, I chose to move into a larger apartment with a single man who worked second shift. This seemed ideal as my job hours were typical 9 to 5.

We began this room mate relationship with the clear understanding that we would not be seeing much of each other because of our different schedules; this was very acceptable as I was happily dating a number of men while maintaining a serious sexual relationship with another.
It never crossed my mind to explore any more of a relationship with my room mate other than, well, room mate. As convenient as this situation was for me, it definitely had it's retractors. My father, who I did not allow to influence my decisions, looked upon this arrangement as "questionable", while other people, mostly family members, snickered behind their collective hands. Friends, who I thought might understand the situation as well as understand me, were the worst of all. They did not mince words with their forecast as they asked again and again if I and the room mate were "sleeping together". Since the apartment had two bedrooms, one of which was occupied by my furniture, it would seem that this question was moot. When I told everyone an emphatic "No" to the questions, they hypothesized that it would "only be a matter of time" before the room mate and I started a sexual relationship.
For me, this was highly offensive. I had a sex partner, a darned good one. One that did not share my bed, require his clothes to be washed or dinners cooked. Why would I consider messing up a nice, tidy arrangement like that with a live in lover? And if I was moving in with a sex partner or boyfriend, why, I'd just have said that. The consensus of friends and family was doubly bothersome as it seemed that while voicing their own thoughts, they were commenting on my morality, which I might add, was no ones business but my own.
The arrangement ran its course; in less than two years, the room mate went his way and I went mine. But in the span of time we shared space, things went as I predicted: we did not become lovers, we did not part as enemies, the time we spent in each others company served to keep us, and our future lovers and spouses as friends which we remain to this day.

When I look back to that time, I realize that the things that were said to me, the fears expressed by my family, were not necessarily a judgment on my morality, but perhaps only a reflection of the choices of those same individuals. What worked for me, may not have worked for them. They might have seen a close member of the opposite sex as a handy bed warmer on a cold or lonely night. They may have walked down that road themselves before and were revealing their own past choices or regrets.

I also come to wonder at an age that does not allow platonic relationships without passing judgment, and I wonder if those who do point condemning fingers aren't guilty of more than negativity - perhaps they are the owner of a "dirty mind".
A "dirty mind" is a funny thing. We can all laugh at an off color joke, yet many people are quick to judge anyone who they think is living in a sexually gratuitous manner. When did the behavior of unrelated adults begin to absorb so much of our attention? And how many people find that a clear option for them may be unavailable because of familial pressures and opinions?

The 1950s were considered to be a repressive time in the history of North America. Times were good for the returning WWII veterans and they were welcomed home with full understanding that all they did was good and well intentioned. Veterans enjoyed many benefits provided through their service to their country, such as education bills, housing grants and job placement. The 1950s saw the largest housing boom in the history of this country; could that have been the source of the belief that traditional family was the only life and that each American should be able to buy a home of their own?
Even in today's climate of in your face reality, it is difficult for some segments of society to accept that lifestyle is different for each person.
In many ways our culture demands that we all live within the narrow boundaries of what is correct and right in the eyes of the majority. It is not uncommon for the basic liberties of our constitution to be denied to anyone living outside of the accepted norm.

Monday, October 17, 2005

From Cheesehead to Hoosier

Recently, after much angst and whining, I relocated from Wisconsin to Indiana. My husband, whose salary is considerably larger than mine, works for a very large corporation which decided he would be better used working in another state. We had been talking of moving anyways, but were interested in a warmer climate and in a future timeframe - like retirement.
Since both of us were originally from Chicago, even after 15 plus years, we were never really at home culturally in Wisconsin.
Please don't get me wrong - Wisconsin is a beautiful state with much land devoted to public use and parks, the people of
Wisconsin have had the foresight to dedicate huge tracts of land to conservation. Which is why we considered moving there in the first place. But the people of Wisconsin traditionally are from agricultural beginnings, although this is not so much the case any longer. There are still family farms and miles of corn, sorghum and wheat, but more and more Wisconsin is becoming the land that wants to be like Chicago. It is competitive, anxious for it's future and bitter about what it sees as the high cost of living. It is also somewhat shortsighted in so far as it does not recognize that it is it's own fault, by virtue of population growth, that costs are rising.
On the other hand, Indiana is for me, an unknown. My father's family is from Indiana. But we lived in Chicago and the difference between how we lived and my distant relatives lived kept us from becoming close.
When informed about relocating to Indiana, I envisioned endless corn fields and a paucity of trees, a strong tie to the past through history and heritage and a loneliness I did not look forward to.
On our first excursion into Indiana to house hunt, my preconceived notions were almost proven correct. Our first realtor, a misogynist, narrow minded, Walmart shopping red neck, did his best to show us (with pride) new housing developments which happily claimed close ties to the farming community. It looked like corn stalks and I would become intimate. I was devastated. Not that there is anything wrong with corn, after all, central and south American indigenous people survived with maize as their primary food source for thousands of years. But I am an artist, and a temperamental one at that and prone to fits of needed mental and visual stimulation. Which was not to be found in the vast fields of corn.
Our second trip to Indiana and a new, cosmopolitan realtor was much more familiar. We saw miles of shopping malls full of the brand names we knew. Shiny malls with full parking lots of gleaming cars and minivans. Looked like northern Illinois.
This wasn't much better, but at least the choices of restaurants were more suitable to us.
"Moving house" as my British and UK friends call it, is hell. From the loss of privacy from the first moving estimators to the endless packing my life took on a feel of the surreal. The first thing to be gone was the sanctuary of home. With realtors and potential buyers coming through the house, it seemed like from the time I signed on with a realty company, the house was no longer mine.
Now, it is almost 4 months later and my first admission is that I am exhausted. Not tired, but exhausted. I don't want to deal with the minutiae of 'the last electric bill' or transferring insurance, paying vehicle registration fees and establishing new services. Prior to the physical move, friends reminded me of the stimulus of fresh decorating new configurations of furniture. Well, I'm tired of that too.
Today, with map in hand, I ponder the choices for new stores, new neighborhoods, new back roads that want discovering. Yes, a move can be refreshing. Yet I wonder at career choices which determine where we live. Wasn't it just the opposite a scant few decades ago? Didn't we all find jobs in our neighborhoods and communities? It was the rarity rather than the norm, that people traveled for their jobs. Now a career dictates where we live and how we live and the community we move to. If one is relocated once, chances are, relocation will happen again. And once on that treadmill, employers "suggest" suitable areas for living - based on resale value of homes.
I am fortunate as I have no children which needed uprooting and introduction to a new school and to new friends. I can not imagine what the difficulties of relocating with school age children are. And then, is this a fair and equitable way to live? What about the spouses of relocated employees? Many people need double incomes today, and many spouses want to have careers as well. Being self employed, and employed online (a virtual job, so to speak), I can in essence go anywhere and still do what it is that I am good at. But in families where both husband and wife work, someone is going to have to give up their job, and friends and community. Is there no consideration for the spouses of relocated workers?
Life has become very complex when one can not rely on settling down in a home that one has made their own. Or keeping the friends they have made, the social lives they have built, the community of closeness that so many of us count on.

Within a couple of months, the agony that I felt at the prospect of moving will be a dull memory. The home I have moved into will be personalized and it will feel like it has always been mine. Yet, the specter of having to do it all again in a few years may haunt me until my husband retires or finds another job.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Garden as Metaphor

Like a kite
a buzzard soars
across my April sky
sun filtered through immense wings as
the winds of spring guide his flight
on skies painted
with scudding clouds

As long as there have been Gardens, they have been a metaphor for Life. From the first harvested grains of wheat, barley
and hops, humans have seen the earth and what grows from it as an understanding of birth, fertility, death and renewal.
Our springs are joyous celebrations of the awakening, our summers bear the fruit of the crops, autumn brings an end to
the cycle while winter gives the deep sleep of death. Yet each spring our hearts rise with the flowing sap, the smells of awakening soils, with the appearance of shoots and buds, the songs of mating birds. We feel the chains of our cold
inhibited lives fall from our limbs and like the burgeoning plant life, the sun's energy can be felt within our own legs and arms and minds.
We each remember, at differing times of the year the sweet and juicy taste of a sun warmed tomato and anxiously await to experience that taste again.
Life is like our garden. We grow to a maturity of the body which sings siren songs of longing and desire. We abandon dreams for the warmth of another spirit joined to our own, even with full awareness that we are promised no more than
this day.

In the garden we set the rows for beans and spinach, for tomatoes and squash, for tarragon and basil; our backs ache,
the plants thrive, their beauty admired dressed in evening dew. We nurture the garden, give freely water and food as it is required knowing our dedication will be compensated when we again have the taste of sweet, juicy tomato dripping from
our chins.
All is transitory, yet treasured in the garden. Why then do we not treasure life in the same manner? We hold ourselves separate from that which we love, with the hope that when it is gone, our wounds will not be so deep. Why do we not nurture all that is life; our loves, our neighbors, those who we may never know, yet who may be the light of the world?
We can no more expect from a squash plant an ear of corn. Why then do we expect the impossible from life? We hold
our loves to standards that are often unattainable, our disappointments mount, we can not be in love with such confined, unchangeable organisms.

Yes. autumn holds sadness as it is a sign of the oncoming winter sleep of death. But we expect it, we know we can not
hold it back any more than we can hold back the night and it's veil of stars or the ocean and it's vast volumes of water. When death is upon us, upon our loves, we raise fist to sky and ask of our gods "Why?".
If our gods had mouths to answer, surely they would say "How not?"
Should there not be joy in dying just as there is joy in being born? Should we not stand in awe of the fruition of children leaving home and finding a place in the world that is their own?
A great gear wheel turns the earth and spins our planet on it's axis: ever changing are the seasons and the gifts they bring
to us. Our fortune is not to be found in taking only what is expeditious today, but in feasting on it's variety and ever changing menu.
Like the soaring buzzard of spring, I find equal joy in the angel wing print of a night hunting owl in the snow outside my door. When I think I have lost sight of the buzzard, or the owl, when I close my eyes and see with my inner vision I find
they both live at the core of my metaphor for life.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

An Owl in My Yard

The end of winter on the shores of Lake Michigan; cold fogs with gray, sodden skies. At season’s end the scenery is drab. Accumulated mud from melted snow mounds and wind blown trash that hangs in bare branches as tattered facsimiles of summer’s lush foliage. Each morning I carry two gallons of hot water to the bird bath; one for cleaning it, the other to fill it. An aluminum covered electric coil sits in the round bottom of the bath, the resident birds reward me with their continued presence. I remove bird feeders from hooks and take them inside the garage to clean and fill them. Chickadees watch and call from the branches above me. Darting to the lower branches, they anticipate a fresh feast of suet and seed.
Whenever the temperature rises enough to avoid frozen sinuses, I join them under the canopy of an ancient, gnarled pine in the front yard. With a scarf wrapped around my face and frost growing on the wool under my nose, I try to remember August.
When the late winter snows come, it is a psychic blow. It had seemed that winter was loosing it’s grip on the yard; only yesterday I felt the wind just that much warmer. The snow falls thick and fast, piling up on whatever things are in the yard; the old Sunday buggy, the bird bath, the sundial. My small world takes on a surreal look and I can’t identify the lumpy shapes of my own possessions.
The tap water from the faucet is icy cold; I set it to boil for tea. Wrapped in a shawl and warmed by the steamy kitchen, I curl my hands on the hot, round mug, I breath tea steam.
With sketch book and pencils I take a chair at the dining room table before the open curtains knowing I will be inspired by visions of sculpted snow on the Sunday buggy. I slip into a cold reverie, tracing the graceful lines of the iron hardware on the antique buggy. The contrast of black metal and blue white snow is irresistible, unidentified shapes loom in the shadows of snow blown places.
Miniature landscapes in monotone emerge as wet and heavy snow continues to fall in silent and steady waves. There, in the back of the buggy, in a depression of snow is bare wood; no, it is something else. Something inside the wagon; sheltering from the blown snow. Standing closer to the window does not help, the heat of my own breathe fogs the window with condensation. Wiping the glass with my sleeve, I can see something small and brown and huddled. The object does not appear to be moving, I watch for quite some time before I detect the slightest motion. Slowly the top of the object begins to move, oddly; until suddenly it reveals a small face from which blaze the most amazing yellow eyes. With an unblinking angry gaze, the owl holds my eyes to it’s own. Snow clings to it’s feathers lightly, yet the owl seems dry. Undisturbed by my discovery of it, it seems not to mind at all as I fetch my camera and take pictures until I run out of film. The owl never moves. Hours pass as I watch the owl and the owl watches me.
My encyclopedia suggest that owls roost during day time. I had never seen an owl in our yard before, could it be hunting mice out by the bird feeders? In color and pattern I could liken the owl to my tabby cat. The feathers are not simply one color laid over another color; each feather contains stripes and hues, which when seen with all of the other feathers resembles fur as much as anything else. The feathers are ‘puffed’, full and slightly raised, allowing air to gather between the many layers. I imagine that this is how the owl stays dry. I can not see the toes, it seems that the creature has been here for some time, the snow has piled up around it, it seems to be sitting in a small depression of white. Under the wagon are melted spots, like a welder has dropped hot solder; small, the size of a quarter, whitewash, barely visible in the snow.
It is mid-afternoon and I have read all the information I have in the house about owls. Shouldn’t the owl be seeking cover during this storm? Raptors which I had observed in the past were increasingly wary of my presence, but this owl did not seem to be disturbed.
I was aware of a local nature sanctuary and thought that a call to them could help answer my owl questions. After more than a few phone calls later, I located a woman from the City Zoo who suggested that I attempt to carefully capture the owl and that if I was successful, the owl was obviously not well and she would see to it that someone from her network of people pick the owl up and deliver it to a Raptor Care Center.
The task of capturing seemed easy at first. Back to the reference material I read that Owls are fierce! I collect a large bath towel and leather gloves from the garage. I prepare a cardboard box. I step outside in the owl’s frigid world.
It is windy and very wet. Nothing stirs either on the snow covered ground or in the trees. The owl and I are alone in the yard, the Sunday buggy between us. At my first attempt to grab it, it jumps from the wagon to the ground where I fear it will run or flap it’s wings to the street. I position myself between it and the road. It moves with surprising speed over the snow on large feathered feet as I walk toward it, bath towel open and forming a barrier which I hope will help keep the owl cornered. It is so angry it hisses at me. I am surprised it is so fierce while still being obviously too sick to fly. As I come closer and it knows capture is imminent, it falls back, furry feet to the sky as it hisses it’s disdain. Gently I let the towel fall and cover the owl, and gently I scoop it up into my arms.
Inside the cardboard box it makes me aware of it’s displeasure by hissing and ‘clacking’; but it is not long before the warmth of the garage as well as the darkness of the box help the bird to settle into quiet security. With the box flaps closed, I appropriately place a large, gold painted plaster cast of the mythological Phoenix on top, balanced at the corner and testing the plaques ability to keep the box closed and the owl inside while not crushing either. Believing the bird was safe and snug, I return to the house stripping off heavy coat and boots to wash my hands under steaming water. I telephone the Zoo and arrange to have someone come and pick up a captured owl.
For the remainder of the day I find it hard to think of anything else but the owl. How soft the down of it’s feathers were and how beautiful. How golden were it’s eyes that blazed at me with such ferocity. later that evening, after the snow had stopped and cold, tiny stars winked in a clear sky, my husband and I shuffle through the drifts of snow to the side door of the garage to see the owl. But the owl was not where I had left it, the cardboard box was empty. Small, discreet scurrying sounds emanated from beneath the work bench and we took chair and sat quietly, waiting for the ‘scurrier’ to appear. Out from behind an assortment of garage flotsam peered those two yellow eyes. We did not move, we held our breathe. Suddenly the owl hopped into view; hunting for mice, looking for a way out, we were not sure what motivated it’s searching. But turning on the light did not help to recapture it. It played a merry game of hide and seek with us until we provided it with the cardboard box, open and inviting after the harsh overhead light and the maze of garage clutter. Into the box it hopped. This time I made sure it would not escape soon. I taped the box closed hoping that the rescue team would show up soon.
It was late when they arrived. Held up by the snow which still clogged the roads, and then by the ice, the young couple standing in the garage with the small pet carrier knew how to handle an owl. With leather gloves and quick and soundless movement, they transferred the owl from the box to the carrier. They thanked us for capturing the owl and caring for it and left the name of a contact person I could call if I wanted to learn about the owl’s prognosis. So quickly they came and just as quickly gone. The name on the snow white card read “B. Harvey - Raptor Rehabilitation”.

Barbara Harvey is the modern equivalent of a falconer. Her federal license enables her to keep endangered birds, as well as treat sick, injured and orphaned raptors. When not busy at the business of caring for birds, Barbara lectures at schools, local civic organizations, conservation areas and any place that there is a welcome interest in conservation. Barbara speaks and her bird ambassadors drive her points home with their amazing eyes.
Of the individuals who come to barbara’s lectures, most are children. Observing at an early Saturday lecture, I became aware of the strong feeling within children for the preservation of all things natural. Children have been learning that without good stewardship, the earth and many of it’s creatures will not be here for us to appreciate, to do the things that their evolutionary niches have provided. The children in the auditorium that day had a head start on many of the adults who accompanied them. And it is these children who Barbara spoke to.
“The lives of most people today do not leave time for each to notice how beautiful our natural surroundings are: the trees, the geese in the fields or on the wing - we are blessed with the beautiful and lovely songbirds who will entertain you for a healthy handout at a strategically placed feeder. As a child I knew there would be a time in my life when I could fly like the feathered friends I used to watch in awe. Didn’t you want to fly too? Now, a little of me flies free with each bird of prey I am able to release and it is indeed a very special feeling. We don’t live just for ourselves, we live for those who come after us”>
In 1993 Barbara and her husband John, spent $25,000.00 building outdoor ‘rooms’ for injured birds of prey so they can heal properly and hopefully be returned to nature.
Barbara possesses a fierceness about the eyes and nose not unlike the birds she cares for. Her determination is worn like a comfortable shirt. She can tell stories about human predation, misuse and plain meanness of spirit that breaks the heart. She can tell of battles won for the physical rehabilitation of a bird, only to find that for some reason it can not be released back to the wild. And how those birds must be euthanized due to laws regulating the keeping of endangered animals. She can tell of healthy birds residing in zoos which should be flying free. Sasha is one of Barbara’s ambassadors. Sasha is a red tailed hawk also brought to barbara after being shot through the elbow with a hunting arrow as a fledgling. Sasha was never able to fly again, and was allowed to live at the facility to help with educating the public about hawks.

“Hawk” is a standard English name in North America to loosely describe about 50 members of the family Accipitridae. It is used in combination with the names of other birds of prey. “Hawk” can be traced to Old German and Old English verbs related to “have” and meaning to grasp or seize. Hawks can vary greatly in size from 8 to 12 inches in length, to nearly 4 feet. All have powerful wings and legs and a short, stout, hooked bill for tearing flesh, and long sharp claws for grasping and in some cases, killing prey. Red tailed hawks are large sized and a common sight along roadsides and over farm fields. Their name is given due to the red tail feathers which are accented while the bird is in flight. They are the least likely creature to be considered “tame”.
Sasha is a miracle of patience and majesty as the children “ooh and ahh” over her beauty and seeming nonchalance at our presence. Suddenly, in front, where the kids are sitting on the floor, a young toddler tries to crawl away from her mother. Swiftly the eyes of the hawk have the child in her sight; not for long are we allowed to forget what Sasha is and why she belongs in the open skies. The morning passes quickly. I am left with a ‘mind’s eye” image of Sasha at the glove.

Barbara stays in contact; we talk and correspond through the mail. She invites me to help with a small project; she asks me if I could possibly go to the City Zoo after closing and meet one of the keepers there. The keeper will escort me to the hawk enclosure where I am to remove a viable egg from a stick nest the female hawk has built on the floor of the cage. I am instructed on how to incubate the egg and where to take it for the next lap of it’s journey to Barbara’s home.
That evening, my husband and I head for the Zoo. It is spring, but spring on the Great Lakes. There is a cold wind off the water, the air is crisp and I burrow deeper into my jacket as we wait for the Zookeeper to invite us to drive in. I am excited, I have never been in a Zoo after close and I fancifully expect to see animals cavorting and doing all of the things they stubbornly refuse to do during day hours while we are watching them. It is disappointingly quiet. We drive over to the hawk enclosure. Past the big cat building (“Is there anyone outside tonight?), past the otter and penguin pools. The enclosures are lit by large halogen bulbs on tall poles. The keeper opens the enclosure and asks: “So whose going inside?”
My husband and I look at each other, a silent “huh?” written across our foreheads. I volunteer him for the job. The hawks decide that they have not agreed to any of this and that they will stand by that egg regardless of the six foot four inches of human male. A baseball cap fluttered close by convinces the hawks of another agenda; they retreat to the far side of the cage. My husband grabs the egg and passes it to me, I take the egg and cradle it between my breasts until I can get to the car and put it on the warm next we have prepared for it.
Resting on Ziploc baggies filled with hot water and wrapped in a hand towel, the egg is turned every ten minutes We drive to the western edge of Milwaukee to a pet store. There we meet our contact, the owner of the store. She takes the egg and places it on a nest just like the one we had made. The Ziplocs are freshly hot and ready to take the egg the rest of the distance.
Barbara lives in the country in a small community near a vast, marshy wetland. Her home is a compound, built to accommodate birds of all sizes. There are mews for hawks and owls as well as ‘runs’, long narrow, fenced enclosures in which a lure is flown (dragged) for a specific bird to chase. These runs serve a dual purpose, they give exercise to recovering birds as well as being a tool to help birds learn to hunt. At Barbara’s house, the egg joins the owl as well as a variety of other birds in various states of rehabilitation.

Months have passed and it is late spring. Car windows down, hair flying, jackets off late spring. The grass is greener than emeralds, green as the emerald isle itself; begging to be cut every five days and full of mosquitos, bait for finches and feeding nestlings. Barbara calls to tell of a program she will be giving at a public school and invites me to come. I am free with no plans and it will be a good day for a drive. She gives detailed directions, it will be easy to find. Before hanging up, Barbara tells me she has a question for me. “Would you bring the owl home with you and release him in your yard where you found him?” I am speechless for moments; I wonder if she knows how honored I feel that she would ask. I answer an enthusiastic affirmative, we set a time to meet.
The program at the school was wonderful, as usual, but my mind is elsewhere. The birds Barbara has with her were magnificent; old friends: Sasha and Uno the kestrel. But I did not attempt any photographs, I did not wish to draw any attention away from Barbara’s message tot he kids at the school that morning. After her presentation, I help her with the many boxes and props which travel with her to each of the programs. When all are securely packed away for their trip home, Barbara brings a box out from the dark of her van.
“Keep the radio off as the owl can be stressed by high noise levels. He could get out of this box, but it’s unlikely he’ll try. Still, keep the windows up and don’t smoke in the vehicle. When you get home, keep him in a darkened, quiet place until dusk, then take the box outside and open it. He’ll eventually come out when he feels safe and when it is dark enough”.
She places the box in my hands. It is so light; is there anything inside? A trust, held in a darkened box and sealed with instructions. I felt my wings unfurl. “I’ll call and let you know everything”, I say. “And, I’ll try to take pictures”.
It is a quiet ride home and a quick one. I do not want to undo any of the hard work that was put into this owls recovery. I want the best possible outcome to this adventure, I want the owl to stay in our yard, to be part of our lives just as he had before I knew he was there at all.
I carefully carry the owl to the cool, dark workshop. I do not slam the door behind me but close it softly hoping not to disturb the very air in the cardboard box, hoping to keep the owl well until dusk. The hours pass slowly; this time of the year we speed towards summer equinox, the daylight is in the sky until almost 9 p.m. But at dusk I walk to the workshop on quiet feet.
Everything about this day has been quiet: the ride home, our dinner, waiting for dusk, the walk to the workshop. All is silent, the box still closed. Quietly I take the box in my hands. Quietly, I walk to the back yard and enclosed by 6 feet of wooden fence, I gently set the box on the ground and gently peel back the tape holding the flaps together. Once I free them of tape, I do not open the flaps. I still have not seen the owl. Quickly now I walk to the deck and stand in the shadows. Slowly the flaps rise to the indigo sky and a round, feathered body hops on the edge of the box and briefly, before flying off, looks at me with those amazing yellow eyes. This unlikely creature, this owl , lifts me with him on his flight into the darkening night.

Late summer nights, after the traffic has all gone away and the crickets serenade contented sleepers, I stand at the open bedroom window and listen. There, on the night breeze, on the secret currents of the scented air, come the wailing toots of the owl in the obsidian dark and I welcome him home.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Distracted by Pants

Lets see, yesterday was Sunday and I was able to finish zero jobs. It isn't as though this is a trend, I am always working on something, whether it be visual art work, writing, home making jobs, finances or parrot play. But it seems that weekends, which are heralded by the presence of my spouse, present an altogether different challenge from plain multi-tasking.
I am tending to calling this problem: "Distracted by Pants". Perhaps another term that could be applicable would be "Trou disoriented".
But this is nothing new. Although my libido, which is typically that of an unmedicated 54 year old female, isn't distracted in say, the same manner as it was when I was 30, never the less, distraction rules when my husband is home.
Whether he is working on projects (all 24 at one time) or simply lurking in his 6'2" way, I can't seem to get a flippin' thing accomplished when he is not at work himself.
I would think that perhaps this is a personal problem. You know, in the realm of maybe late diagnosed AADD or some other intitial laden malfunction. But no. This distraction problem goes away the moment he steps into his car and pulls out of the driveway. At that point I am free of his encumbrance. I do not have to worry about trying to have super hearing so I can make out the inane mumblings of a person not sure of the next step, or to be concerned with his interruptions as I head to the bathroom. Or being in precisely the place he feels he must be to conduct his next project in. I do not have to be concerned with leaving a towel on the counter, my laundry on the clothesline, a newspaper on the ottoman, or a bowl in the sink. Not that this is a perfect house, but it seems that my leavings are the very means by which he avoids his next job on his imaginary honey do list. Procrastination by means of other peoples chores.
This is not to say I don't give him things to do. Oh, I do. But he is not the kind of guy who needs to be told that something is broken - unusually. He IS the type of guy who flies around the house looking for the next big thing to occupy himself. Talk abut AADD. My dear husband has it in spades.
Fortunately he is not a couch potato. Not at all. His problem, if it is a problem (and it might very well be my problem according to other wives I talk with), is that he is constantly in motion, until he falls over from exhaustion. Now some people would see this as a plus. A man who always is busy and making or doing something creative. Compared to the alternative, my husband is a gem. But this constant motion can be just as frustrating as constant immobility can be.
Oh, I know, quit complaining. At least things get done around here. But is it too much to hope that once in a while nothing gets done other than relaxation, inactivity, and most importantly; no distractions?
Thinking about being distracted by pants, could it be that being distracted by a guy wearing no pants be more satisfying, even to a woman with decreased libido? YES! I say. I would rather be distracted by the promise of a lazy day in bed than the lawn being mowed, the screens being washed, the weeds being pulled and the garage being vacuumed. There are times when I would rather see the sheets being changed because they have been tarps for engaging sexual activity, as opposed to being simply surfaces to sleep on.
I guess after all these years I still ask myself why men find it so hard to strike a balance in their lives. Why they have difficulty moderating their behavior rather than putting their behaviors on steroids. Why they seem to have only two setting for their switches: TOTALLY ON or COMPLETELY OFF.
Women seem to not suffer from these problems. It is completely reasonable to us to take a day off park our butts in a comfy chair with book, iced drinks and glasses at hand while the house goes to hell in a hand basket. No, I do not endorse sloth as a lifestyle. But I do think it is very civilized to take a day now and then and do nothing other than enjoy the fruits of years of labor. To sit in the shade with the paper, to bask in the sun on a hammock, to finally listen with both ears to that Coltrane CD.
A hint to all men: if you really want to do something nice for the wife, how about chilling out for a day. Giving it all a rest.
Even eating only leftovers rather than expecting a gourmet feast......

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

We know what you are Walgreens

Walgreens has decided that it will handle birth control for women in the following manner:

Some locations have decided that they will not carry or stock birth control pills, the birth control patch, or RU 486 for distribution to female customers. We are not talking about people who ask for these drugs on demand, but patients of doctors who have been given prescriptions for these drugs.

Some Walgreens stores have instituted a policy that they will allow their hired PHARMACISTS to deny a person their prescription because that pharmacist does not believe in birth control.

It seems to me as a FORMER stock holder of Walgreens that I do not wish to invest my money in a company that allows employees to dictate public policy or to deny the rights of patients access to prescriptions.

It also seems to me that Walgreens, who is known to have contributed a large percentage of cash to Republican coffers through PACs is trying to set legislative policy for the country.

After carefully reviewing my own stock portfolio, I had advised my broker to dump Walgreens in the dirt. I certainly can't get behind a company that can not control the actions of their employees on the job. As a savvy investor, I see Walgreens' move as a blow to the back of the knees, I have no confidence in a company which can't make up it's collective mind from day to day.
But mostly I am offended that Walgreens thinks it is perfectly moral to sell Viagra, Cialis and condoms to its male customers; and not all of the items above need prescription. Not only is Walgreens attempting to legislate morality, but it is discriminating against women.
I am not sure which issue I find more disgusting.
Pulling my receipts from year 2004, I realize that I had spent literally thousands of dollars on prescription drugs and toiletries at Walgreens. Well, not any more. Each penny I have to spend at a 'drug emporium" will be spent at a company which honors my and other women's reproductive rights.
I am happy to find that General Motors pulled Walgreens from their list of providers. Will you do the same? Please?
Don't let coprorate entities tell you how to live your life. Don't let corporate entities whittle away at gender equality issues that seemed settled years ago.

Demand that Walgreens' employees fulfill the duties of their accepted position; demand that your prescriptions be filled!

Friday, March 25, 2005

One Woman's Opinion: Mrs. T. Schiavo & Hypocrisy

I applaud and thank the federal state/circuit judges who had ruled in favor of the removal and subsequent refusal for re-insertion of the feeding tube of Mrs. T. Schiavo. Your deference to the law is appreciated by many segments of the population, myself included.
I thank you for a number of reasons: first, for validating a person's wishes for their medical treatment and their decisions for the vision they have of life ending choices. Secondly, for empowering marriage as a contract; formal and informal of spouses and not government. Thirdly, for upholding the law and refusing to react to a small, but vocal group of protesters who refuse to honor the rights of the individual. And lastly, for acting in a manner that speaks of integrity as opposed to gratuitous pandering.

I am appalled at the waste of time, tax dollars and energy that the Bush administration and the Senate spent involving themselves in an issue that needs no government intervention. I am equally appalled at the tolerance by city officials of protesters who have surrounded the hospice of Mrs. Schiavo and who have done so without any connection to the family themselves, and often without the benefit of a permit, something which any other group must procure before gathering to protest things such as war, violence, or administration policy. These people have intruded on a private time in other's lives and they have convinced members of the Senate and government that their personal agenda is more important than is the dignified death of another single member of our society.

What bothers me greatly is that by virtue of attempting to over ride the rights of Mrs. Schiavo's spouse, that
very action would devalue the sanctity and legal status of marriage between heterosexual couples.
This is the same group of people who object to gay, or same sex marriage on the grounds that it threatens
the sanctity of marriage between "a man and a woman". What utter hypocrisy! It is they themselves that threaten, not just the sanctity of marriage, but the very freedoms our country prides itself in. My message to those who chose to recognize only those laws which validate their personal agenda: be very careful for what you wish; you just might get it. When you change the institution of marriage to fit your own ideals, you open the gates to other issues as well.
If you believe that the entire nation will sit idly by as you rewrite our constitution, you are wrong. Many of us who are opposed to your intolerance realize it is time for us to stop being so tolerant ourselves. It is time for
us to stop accepting your narrow view of the world and how you crave it's future destruction. When all people who are opposed to your bronze age mentality pick up their pens, take to the public airwaves to remind people that freedom of religion also embraced freedom from religion, perhaps we'll see an end to peer pressure religious dogma.

It sickens me to see supposed 'clergy members' grabbing at sound bytes for a moment in the spotlight. You
are not ministering while you are pandering - get back to your pulpits and preach that which is familiar to you, as the law is certainly not a topic in which you have knowledge. Your brand of Christianity is the noose that is tightening around the very neck of freedom. Your brand of Christianity would not be recognized by the Jesus who preached tolerance and open-ness for the new religion.

And politicians: you tread on dangerous ground. Remember the words of Jesus himself as he alluded to his action of evicting the money lenders and changers from the temple: "Render onto Caesar that which is Caesars'. Render unto God that which is God's".

I have no softer words for the mother and father of Mrs. Schiavo. Let your daughter go to her rest. Each human being is born to live and as we do so, prepare for death. If you believe this, then let your daughter go. Do you think you give her ease of mind to see you struggle so with the law of this land in her name? What is it about angst and pain that attract you so, even to the point of keeping alive someone who can not even recognize her own humanity? What is it that you so fear of death? Does not your faith hold dear the notion that upon death, those with a good heart and a soul accepted by Jesus will live in paradise? Why would you want your daughter to linger on and be the face of suffering? All humans who love face the loss of a loved one. Why must your daughter be the poster child for denial?
Additionally, you both, as her parents, are not living the definition of the faith you claim is yours. Does not the bible teach that honor must be given to a mother and father, but upon marriage, a daughter is cleaves to her husband and leaves her childhood home behind her? Again, another distortion of the bible is being perpetuated in the name of personal agenda, religious dogma and popular pandering.

Stop the madness of your hypocrisy!

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Mother's Day - A timely poem for those who aren't

mother's day

I would rather give birth
to Ideas than children.
Ideas never come back later
thinking that you owe
them something.
Ideas will wake you in the
middle of the night
and certainly, Ideas have been
known to keep you up all night;
an Idea never needs a
diaper change
breast feeding
An Idea never leaves you;
once you give birth to it,
it soars and blossoms,
like a flower, and hopefully
will never dessert you.
The same can not be said of children,
when the hormones move them,
are off, in their own direction.
An Idea never seeks therapy
for the lousy life
you gave it.
It matters not your age,
or the frequency with which you
give birth to ideas;
Ideas do not present hungry mouths
or need to be nourished on
Mother's Milk.
Multitudinous Ideas can not diminish stamina.
An Idea can not be lost,
turned against you,
used as pawn,
ask for money,
move back in,
use your credit card,
marry for spite,
do poorly in school.
A good Idea will never die!
nor will it bring you flowers on mother's day.


Fiction: A Fine Day for Ducks

A Fine Day for Ducks copyright: 1999, L. Jody Kuchar

It is an autumn day on the shore of the lake. It is unusually warm, the sky is cloudless and the remainder of wasps, the ones not frozen in the cold nights, are buzzing around in the sun by the back door.

Bob has lived alone for years. He used to have a dog, but Bob outlived him, so now he’s alone. Bob is not bothered by solitude, he is reclusive, preferring the nonexistence of a partner rather than be forced to consult another human being regarding the every day things of life.

Bob’s home lies on seven acres of land which has several “out buildings” on it and is bordered by the big bay. The land is on limestone cliffs that are a few feet above the water line. There is a fine view of the water.

The bay produces it’s own weather systems; Bob is out taking advantage of the fine day. He is trenching holes in his yard with his “dig it” truck. There is no apparent reason for tearing up his once flowering garden, but Bob thinks he is keeping himself busy with various tasks that need to be done on his property.

Instead of a neat, cozy home, Bob has been collecting things for the entire time he has occupied his old school house. He had been doing some renovation inside, and in the dead of winter he still busies himself with laying hardwood floors or sanding down wooden cabinetry.

The schoolhouse has a basement, a main floor and an attic. Each nook and cranny of the basement and the attic is filled to the brim with stuff which Bob has salvaged. There are shadowy shapes of carved wood, wooden animals, ship mascots, birdcages, school desks, paneling, planking, unconnected metal air ducts, tools, electronics, glass. There is scientific equipment, an old furnace, wooden workman's horses, a large dog kennel. There are dead and dried up plants, stained glass windows, pieces of conveyer belts, jars of nuts and bolts and hardware. There are clothes piled up in various corners, perhaps they have been there for years. Perhaps they were once bedding for the now deceased dog. It is obvious that they are no longer used as clothing by Bob.

At noon, Bob turns off the dig - it and heads for one of his odd assortment of vehicles parked around the property. He gets into an old pick up truck and heads for the local bar where they serve greasy burgers, frozen pizzas and cold beer. Bob is hungry and really thirsty.

The bar is old and smells like stale beer, sweat, cigarettes and rotting wood. The tourists do not frequent this bar, only the locals come in here. The bar tender is an extremely overweight woman named Sue. Sue has been a widow now for two years. It is rumored on the peninsula that she was the death of her husband. The couple had been known locally as Jack Spratt and his wife. Sue, is slow moving, it takes a lot of energy to move her bulk from one end of the bar to the other.

Eventually Bob gets his burger and cold beer and sits to watch reruns of Mayberry RFD with the other bar patrons.

Sue pours a cold draft and asks Bob, “See any birds Bob?”

“Ducks are sure thick on the bay today”, says an old guy at the other end of the bar.

“Yep, and I’m getting impatient for morning”, injects another stool warming patron.

“Doing some hunting this year Ed?” asks Bob.

“Hoping for a few for the holiday, the wife says she's ordering a turkey though in case the hunting’s like it was last year”, says Ed who looks like he could use a few turkeys to pad out his meager frame.

“Wanna go out with us tomorrow?” Ed asks Bob.

“Oh, I don’t think so Ed, gotta keep on with the dig it, need those trenches ready for spring” Bob replies as he sips his beer, then wipes his mouth before biting into the burger.

“What's the trenches for Bob?”, Ed’s companions eyes come alive at the suggestion of some information other than what's being offered on Mayberry RFD.

“Hoping to lay in some pipe to keep the back 2 acres from flooding next year.” Bob mumbles through the bite of ketsup-y burger he is chewing.

“Oughtn’t have settled on the wetlands, I’d say. Maybe you should bring in some fill to help with that. That Injun on Highway M might have some stuff you could use for fill. He’s been peeling logs for a month now. Seems to be a little late in the season for starting a new cabin.”

After mayberry and a second beer, Bob heads back to his house in the truck, barely avoiding a twelve point buck coming out of the tamarack swamp on the water side of the road. Bob has thoughts of trophy deer and venison sausage, but knows he doesn’t want another dent in the pick up truck. He swerves, misses and wishes he’d stayed for another beer.

At home the wind has picked up, the wasps have quit the sun by the door and Bob closes up some of the windows in the house before heading out for a load of wood for the furnace. Clouds are beginning to form to the west and there is a cold smell in the air. Bob drives the dig it over to the pole garage he put up last year. He puts the truck in park, opens the garage door and edges the dig it into an open spot. He turns off the dig it and pockets the key, shutting the door behind him.

The gray clouds scud over the bay, the ducks are thick and visually form a black smudge on the surface of the water. Bob takes binoculars from a shelf by the door and heads for the water’s edge. He sits on a log bench and raises the glasses to the duck smudge. There are mallards, ruffle heads, ruddy ducks and coots. There is a flock of tundra swans in the rice grass on the other side. The birds are surprising quiet for such large numbers. There is no sound but the wind on the water and the dried leaves of the birch trees on the cliff edge.

Bob doesn’t let anyone know he merely watches the birds. Bird watching is a dumb sport, usually the territory of the tourists and tree huggers that come to the peninsula. But there is a calming effect that comes over Bob as he watches the ducks and his life doesn’t seem so hard while he is sitting on the bench, in the sun, on the bay.

A couple of hours pass and it is getting darker now, Bob heads back to the house and stokes the furnace for the evening.

The next day dawns bright and cold, the bay is sparkling a many hued blue and the ducks have gathered in greater numbers. Bob does not need the binoculars to see the duck blind out on the water. “Damn floating piece of shit” he mumbles as he takes his coffee out to the log seat by the cliff.

The duck blind looks like a floating ice fishing shanty, as it very well could be. From afar, all that can be made out is some wood walls that appear to be floating across the bay.
“Dumbest thing ya ever saw” comments Bob to no one as he watches the blind motor towards the ducks. The hunter had to be up and out on the water before first light, there are decoys scattered in the general area of the blind.

Ducks are smarter than they look. These ducks seem to know all the rules of engaged hunting: as long as they remain on the water, the hunters can’t shoot at them. The blond motors closer to the dark smudge of ducks on the water, the smudge of ducks float away from the blind. It is a merry chase that seems to go on and on, Bob is delighted at the hunter’s lack of success. But sometime in the late afternoon, while Bob is busy elsewhere, the sound of gunshot echoes over the clear bay. The ducks are on the wing.

Bob stops what he is doing and grabs the binocs from the shelf and goes to the east windows. The ducks wheel and undulate in the sky, the swans have joined the flight display, the hunters are thwarted again. The swans are protected and can not be hunted. The sport is over for the day; the hunters drop the sides of the blind.

It is obvious now what the blind is constructed of. Collapsible wood siding panels are held in place by telescoping composite rods and are attached to the side of the fishing boat. There are cattails and swamp grass hanks applied to the facade of the blind. There are 2 hunters in the boat with a black dog, they are both occupied with collecting the decoys which have floated to various spots on the bay and must be retrieved before dusk. Bob laughs at the ‘floating pile of shit” and continues on with his daily chores.

Nights on the bay in late fall can be spectacular for watching the stars. If one is lucky, there is an occasional display of aurora borealis. This is one place where regardless of education, or lack of it, everyone knows what the aurora is.

Bob settles in front of his large east window in a broken chair with a beer to watch the constellation Leo move from south to north. Far to the north, there are northern lights: the earth’s curve makes them appear to be on the horizon instead of high in the sky. There are frequent flashes of light and movement of the light, but it is not going to be a great local display. Bob is, never the less, happy with the wheeling stars. After a few more beers, the fire dies down in the furnace and Bob heads for the loft in which he has built a sleeping platform in the old schoolhouse.

Bob dreams of ducks. Of ruddy ducks, mergansers, of coots and mallards. He dreams of by gone days when the bay was so thick with ducks that you could barely see the water. When you could paddle out to the wild rice grass and collect enough grain for the winter, as well as snare a duck. He wishes he had lived then, he wishes for the simplicity that he naively believes existed in those days.

When morning comes, Bob takes his coffee out to the bench and sees the same hunters on the water again. Bob wonders what compels a man to sit in a boat for ten hours on cold water in a stiff wind to hunt. Bob does not condemn hunting, but Bob feels you should hunt only when hungry. Bob has never been that hungry, so instead he just watches the ducks.

The hunters are anxious, no, desperate today. This makes sense as they went home empty handed yesterday. They are trying to spook the ducks into flight so as to have an open shot. The ducks form tighter and tighter groups which look like black bands on the water. They are agitated. The first band of ducks rise into the sky, a second band does the same but wheeling higher and heading in a tight group to the north. The second band wheels back and flies south, over the first band. There is a whirlwind of ducks. There are shots; one, two, three, four, five. “Shotgun”, thinks Bob as he watches the bird’s frenzied, whirling flight. Bob does not see any ducks fall to the water, a slow smile starts on his unshaven face.

Bob reads a lot. In the silvered light of the harvest moon, Bon stokes the furnace and curls up with Bullfinches ‘Mythology’. Secretly Bob loves Greek mythology and history. Not long ago, Bob read a book called “The Firebrand”. It was a work of fiction taking place in the city of Troy. The main character is Cassandra, cursed by Apollo to an outcast life. Bob fancies himself in love with Cassandra. His six pack finished, Bob’s head begins to nod, his chin rests on his chest, he falls asleep and dreams fiery constellation dreams.

It is still dark at 6 a.m., the clocks have not yet been turned back. The loud sound of gunfire echoes across the bay again. Bob is startled awake and almost falls out of the broken chair he has spent the night in. He gets up and winces, stretching. he is sore, a chair is not the ideal resting place. “Especially not that chair”, thinks Bob as he stumbles to the bathroom and starts the hot water running in the shower. He can still hear gunshots over the running water as he undresses and hopes for relief under the strong, hot water spray.

Shower done, Bob towels off and tosses the limp terry cloth into a corner with discarded clothing. He wanders to the loft and his closet and pulls out a wool sweater and dingy white T-shirt. he layers the T shirt and sweater, then wanders back to the hall by the bathroom for his lost jeans. He feels better now, a little steamy, but much less sore. He stokes the furnace and closes the steel door in time to hear more gun fire.

“Starting to sound like the OK corral”, Bob talks to no one but his empty house. “Maybe it’s time to see what’s going on ..”. Bob heads to the stove and puts on a pot of coffee. When the coffee is done, Bob pours a generous cup and heads outside.

There is frost on the logs in the woodpile, but the bay has held off the hardest of the frost, no doubt, on the ridge of the peninsula, there was hoar frost on the fields and leaves. The air is clear and the water blue as Bob scans the horizon for signs of the duck blinds and hunters he has been hearing all morning. As his eyes adjust to the rising sun, Bob begins to spot the blinds. Counting six, he knows this will be a noisy day.

Bob doesn’t have anything against the hunters, but he cherishes the peace of his little corner of the county. He resent s the hunters who, no doubt, carry binoculars like he does and probably can see him as well as he can see them.

Bob is an anarchist. he loves stirring the pot to see what cooks up. He wonders if there is any way to liven things up and maybe even quiet things down a bit. Bob heads for his basement.

Among the basement flotsam, Bob has a treasure. He has been saving it for the perfect thing and now he thinks he sees the beginnings of a beautiful plan. The ‘thing’ is a carousel animal. It is designed as a large white swan. It is a lovely piece and Bob brought it with him from Massachusetts when he settled on the peninsula. He had strapped it down in the bed of his pick up as he drove across the country. He had gotten plenty of odd looks from other motorists on the turnpike. But the odd looks and trouble it took to move the swan were worth it.

Bob hauls the swan from the dark corner and into the light. He circles it a couple of times, forming a mental picture of his idea. He leaves the swan and heads for another corner in the far side of the basement where he keep small engines, motors and the occasional radio control kit. It is dark in this corner too and it seems a resident spider has attempted to weave all his possessions into one large web which is essentially bare. No sign of the offending spider. Bob rummages in the dark, the sound of various metal things hitting the floor and others being dragged out and Bob’s heavy breathing are the only noises. Not even the mouses are scurrying now. Bob emerges from the corner with a box. he drops the box next to the swan. Bob checks through the box to be sure that all the parts that are needed are in it. When satisfied, Bob leaves the pile of things where they are and heads up the stairs and outside, to the garage.

The air is crisp, the gunfire is still noisy. There is no sound of ducks, it seems their energy is spent today out running the gunfire and hunters. Bob walks to the back of the garage and looks for some parts he had saved from the cherry processing plant that was torn down five years ago. He is searching for a piece of conveyer equipment. The piece Bob find is ten feet long, it is too long for his uses. Bob drags the conveyer to the table saw. He changes the blade in the saw and measures the belt, deciding to cut it off at 36 inches.

The table saw whines and sparks, Bob is deft and sure with his cutting. There is the smell of hot metal in the garage. He switches off the saw. he walks to another corner of the garage and pulls out an old trolling motor. He inspects the motor and finds that the propeller is not froze. He carries the motor and conveyer back outside and piles them by the back door to the basement.

Bob’s old wooden boat, which he has been working to restore for seven years, does not need the battery that is no longer connected to anything; Bob lifts the battery out of the well and carries it to the growing pile by the basement door.

Bob carries the diminished conveyer piece and the trolling motor and the battery, piece by heavy piece, to the basement where it joins the other things Bob has been assembling. When Bob watches television, he usually watches PBS. A few years back, he watched a program about engineering students at MIT who competed in a machine building contest. The students were given boxes of parts and were told to build a machine that would perform a particular function. The function of the machines that Bob saw built, was to pick up ping pong balls as fast as possible. Bob has always been a creative innovator. At 16, Bob was caught by the local constabulary for siphoning fuel from a rental truck with a kitchen siphon and some aquarium tubing. From then on, it was onward and upward. Bob could turn any worthless piece of junk into some kind of tool.

When Bob is certain that he has what he needs for the mechanics, he starts to mentally work on structure. He ponders his options: quick set to durability. Bob settles for quick set, if this takes too long, it could lose all semblance of fun. Bob treks to the cleaner part of the basement; the place where he has stored chemicals and fixatives and paints and primers and acrylics. he turns on an overhead light and searches for a specific can. It is marked ‘Bondo’. Bob grabs some mixing dishes, a spackle knife and some sand paper. He brings it out of the chemical room and into the middle of the basement. He returns to the main floor and picks up a floor fan. he returns to the basement.

It is 2 p.m. when Bob emerges from the basement. he has a strange smile on his face. If you didn’t know Bob, you’d wonder if he wasn’t involved in something illegal. It was just that kind of smile.

Bob leisurely strolls through he kitchen and pours himself a cup of coffee. He grabs the keys to the pick up and heads outside. He starts the truck and pulls it up to the outside door of the basement. He turns off the truck, gets out, walks to the back and drops the tailgate. Bob opens the basement door and goes down the stairs with his cup of coffee.

It is quiet except for the gunfire which is still thundering across the bay. Bob wonders how much lead lies at the bottom of the clear water and the rocks from the ‘bird shot’ pellets.

There is a sound of heavy breathing, not the kind heard after a sexual tryst, but the kind that accompanies hard work. There are bumping sounds and the sound of Bob cursing. Suddenly, out of the door of the basement, aimed towards the back of the pick up, is the head of a large, white swan. It is followed by the body of a swan, which is followed by Bob, who is pushing and grunting for all he is worth.

The swan bumps up the last of the stairs and exits, in full view, into Bob’s yard. Bob stands and wipes his forehead, the swan sits and watches the bay. Bob gets his breath and surveys the swan. he hops up to the bed of the pick up and with a huge heave, he hauls the swan into the bed where it settles majestically. He takes his empty coffee cup back into the house and grabs his jacket, binoculars and a small remote control unit.

Bob gets in the truck and turns the key, the truck sputters to life. Bob backs up carefully until the pick up tailgate is inches from the cliff’s edge. He sets the emergency brake and turns off the truck. It is suddenly silent. The gunfire has for the moment stopped and the ducks are caught between the shore and the guns.

Bob drops the tailgate of the truck, steps into the bed, and hauls the swan down to the cliff edge. It is a 3 foot drop to the water. Bob secures a rope to the swans neck, grabs the free end, then pushes the swan into the bay. The swan bobs on the water, seeks it’s level and settles into a gentle sway with the waves.

Bob ties the end of the rope to a cedar tree and goes back to the cab of the truck for his binoculars and remote control unit. He sits on the lowered tailgate of the truck, satisfied that he has some cover under the trees. He reaches over the side of the truck and unties the rope from the cedar tree, and deftly shakes it lose from the neck of the swan. The swan
looks free.

Bob flicks a switch on the remote unit, a small motor sound comes from the swan and for a moment the swan actually looks confused. Then it turn to the east, heading straight into the wind and motors across the bay, towards the ducks.

Bob has created the perfect duck blind. The ducks pay no attention to Bob’s swan, they have seen swans on this bay for months and it is just, after all, another swan, although larger than most. The ducks part, dark smudges swimming in opposite directions, and let the swan through. The swan sits smartly on the water and motors out to the duck blinds.

There are no sounds of gunfire. It is quiet as the swan approaches the small boats which have been disguised in various way to ‘fool’ the ducks. The swan approaches a small group of what appears to be ducks, but these ducks do not move. Bob watches through the binoculars and knows that the time is now.

He flips another switch on the remote control unit and holds his breath. Small servo motors buried in the swan’s interior opens a door in the swans breasts. The conveyer belt slides out the distance of 18 inches. The swan motors up to the unmoving ducks. The unmoving ducks touch the conveyer and begin to funnel up the conveyer where they
disappear into the swan. The black labrador dog in the blinds bark madly.

There is the sound of laughter from under the trees on the shore. There is the sound of dismay from the duck blinds.

“MY DECOYS! What the hell ...!” Bob can hear the angry hunters from his vantage on the shore. Bob is laughing so hard that he falls back into the bed of the pick up. The swan continues it’s hungry search for decoys, the hunters sit astonished in their blinds and Bob thinks to himself “This is really too easy”, as he watches the swan gobble decoys through it’s open breast.

Bob thinks of his creation as The Trojan Swan and realizes that he has created a new mythology on the big bay, on Lake Michigan.

Bob feels one step closer to Cassandra.